Media promote Luxon ahead of his time as politician

People with public profiles, or ‘personalities’ as media who like to think they are also personalities describe them, have a significant advantage over people who don’t have any public profile – name recognition. With the voting public mostly disinterested in most politics and politicians most of the time, having your name known already can be a huge advantage.

But some of them acquire  much bigger advantage, gifted to them by media.  Journalists see stories, and make stories, when  well known person hints at an interest in politics, and when they indicate or announce an interest in politics.

This is what has been happening with ex Air NZ CEO, Christopher Luxon. Even while he was still working for Air NZ media were promoting his prospects not only as a future politician, but also as a future party leader. I think it’s likely some of this at least was deliberately seeded and fed by Luxon, but media willingly obliged.

When Luxon resigned from Air NZ media obliged some more.

When Luxon stood for selection in an electorate, and was subsequently selected to stand in an electorate, media didn’t just report this as news, they promoted the chances of Luxon becoming party leader and potentially Prime Minister.

It will be about a year before the next election, and before we know if Luxon is elected as a back bench MP or not. It would be another two or three years at least before Luxon got a chance of standing for the leadership of National, and even in that sort of time frame it would be remarkable if he did. and he would probably have to compete against other ambitious MPs who have waited for many years working on their chances of rising to the top.

But so far at least Luxon has huge advantage – the media wanting to create stories and effectively create political careers. This is hugely undemocratic. but it is how our media operates in our democracy, as talent scouts and career makers and breakers.

Media does a valuable, essential job reporting politics. But when they become obsessed with making stories rather than reporting them, they are doing a disservice to our democracy.

Media have likened Luxon to John Key, but Key was actually a virtual unknown in New Zealand until he got into politics. However media did help him on his way to the top.  That was one success.

However people with public profiles prior to politics don’t necessarily become great politicians – media can give them unbalanced publicity, but they can’t make them good MPs or Ministers.

There are a number of ‘personalities’ (people with media profiles) who have been great politicians.

Pam Corkery comes to mind – after a media background she became an MP in 1996 but left after one term.

Maggie Barry was well known on TV before becoming an MP in 2011. She ended up becoming minor Minister last term but is probably better known for claims of bullying staff, and over the last year for strong and sometimes extreme opposition to the End of Life Choice bill. She has just announced she won’t stand again next year.

John Tamihere had political and media profile but that didn’t help him get close to winning the recent Auckland mayoral election (but he was competing against Phil Goff who got all the media help he could have hoped foe when first standing for mayor three years ago.

In the Dunedin elections in 2016 a radio ‘personality’ stood and got elected, but after an unremarkable term as councillor voters dumped him.

There are media ‘successes’. They certainly helped hype Jacinda Ardern and significantly enhanced her chances of becoming Prime Minister.

Media picked up and disproportionately promoted a young Auckland mayoral candidate in the 2016 election. Chloe Swarbrick went on from that, undoubtedly helped by media attention, to become a Green Party candidate, to get a fast track up the Green list and into Parliament. She would have to be one of the most promising first term MPs.

But excessive media attention can be a double edged sword. The promotion and rise of Luxon has just resulted in his first political success, candidate selection in what should be a safe electorate. And he should get a high enough list position to have  a second chance in his first election.

But media attention has led to social media attention, and that will never be all positive.

Under Simon Bridges the National Party seems to be under more influence of conservative Christian leanings. Luxon may add too that.

Stuff: National chooses former Air NZ boss Christopher Luxon as Botany MP candidate

Speaking to media immediately after he gained a majority of delegates’ votes in the first round, Luxon laid out his views on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and cannabis legalisation.

The 49-year-old Evangelical Christian had previously refused to talk about his views on abortion. But on Monday night he said he was personally against reform of abortion or euthanasia law.

Asked about the influence of his strong personal faith on his political views, Luxon said: “My faith is a very personal thing … it gives me mission and purpose.”

He cited the effect of cannabis on young people with mental health problems in saying he was against its legalisation for recreational use. But he was in favour of decriminalising medical use, he said.

Those views may be popular in the National Party at the moment, but may struggle for wider popular support.

​Luxon, armed with an endorsement from former prime minister (and current Air NZ board member) John Key was regarded as something of a favourite.

It was clear that some of the higher ups in the party’s non-parliamentary wing were keen to see such a celebrity CEO enter Parliament.

It also seems the media have been keen to see such a ‘celebrity CEO’ enter Parliament. and they have been helping promote it.

I think Luxon has already featured on a ‘preferred Prime Minister’ poll. Expect anything like that to be magnified by the media far beyond it’s significance as Luxon gets turbo charged by journalists who often seem more interested in making stories than fair and balanced democracy.

There’s nothing much us plebs can do about over the top and unbalanced media influence politics – except perhaps do more to make up our own minds and vote accordingly.

However with Luxon being gifted an electorate that should be easy for him to win the media are likely to come out on top there – picking and choosing future leaders to promote.

Refreshing taking fight to Ardern’s celebrification

Jacinda Ardern has taken ‘celebrity politics’ to a whole new level since. This began before she became Labour leader and Prime Minister. Her media management had already included celebrity style magazine coverage. That has continued, with the latest example being Ardern featuring in a US magazine, Vogue.

In general the New Zealand media has both lapped it up and egged it on, and this looks to be increasing with the pregnancy of Ardern being given far more importance than governance of the country.

It’s bit of a big deal in New Zealand politics that Ardern became pregnant while taking on the most important role in the country. Pregnancy and giving birth is a big deal for any mother – but in the whole scheme of things having babies is very routine, it has been happening for a lot longer than the New Zealand has had Ardern and the world has had princesses.

For New Zealand how Ardern functions as a Prime Minister running the country should be of far greater importance than what she names her kid and other mundane trivia outside immediate family.

Fran O’Sullivan writes against the current: Time Jacinda Ardern eases back on celebrification?

Jacinda Ardern can thank Judith Collins’ incisive political attack for reminding her of her biggest job: get on her game as Prime Minister.

The media-endorsed “mother of the nation” celebrification — which has been wall-to-wall since Ardern announced her pregnancy — could (if she is not mindful) undermine her impact as NZ’s political leader.

Opposition politicians have since tip-toed around Ardern. They have not wanted to be seen to land blows on a young pregnant woman who happens to be enormously relatable and popular.

Most have played into the “generational change” meme without pointing out that the only reason we have a 37-year-old female Prime Minister is because a septuagenarian put her there.

But when Collins — some 20 years Ardern’s senior — launched her campaign for National’s leadership, she took a different approach by taking the fight directly to the Prime Minister.

It was refreshing.

After weeks of media coverage suggesting Ardern’s pregnancy meant she was now a shoo-in to lead the Labour-NZ First coalition to win another term at the 2020 election, an Opposition politician had finally broken cover from their self-imposed PC straitjacket.

Others might have a problem taking on Ardern out of concern that they would look heavy-handed or be seen to pick on the young, pregnant woman.

But Collins said: “I have been pregnant running a law firm and studying as well. As a young mum I understand exactly how tough it is to do that. But she understands that too.

“That is not the role she’s asked New Zealanders to support her for.”

“She has asked them to make her and keep her as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

I think that’s a fair call.

“And that is the role I would hold her to account for.”

Collins’ forthright attack has clearly resonated within the ninth floor of the Beehive.

It was notable that when Ardern addressed senior members of the Auckland business community at breakfast yesterday, she was completely on song in delivering a speech that set out the Government’s focus for the next three years.

She gave a polished and confident delivery.

Notably, there was no mention of her pregnancy. Nor were there any jokes about Clarke Gayford — the upcoming stay-at-home dad. Her Vogue cover was not mentioned (apart from a closing comment by Westpac chief executive David McLean that some of his staff were lining up for selfies with the PM who had been in Vogue).

This shift in key enabled the business community to focus on what the Prime Minister had to say.

It was an important speech that conveyed important messages. It did not warrant being buried by distraction — nor was it.

Ardern has been a quick learner and an astute reader of public sentiment. She has played the celebrity card with aplomb, with the help of a more than willing media.

Here she seems to have switched to serious Prime Minister. Are the media able to switch off the celebrity button as easily? I doubt it.

Ardern — still establishing her prime ministerial platform — must get runs on the board while maintaining her relentlessly positive approach.

It is a balance.

Vogue called Ardern the anti-Trump. She plays the media differently, but she still plays the media bigly like Trump.

What New Zealand needs is an anti-celebrity.

Ardern’s positioning as Prime Minister is at times also undermined by a media fascination which borders on being fatuous.

This was embarrassingly obvious last weekend, when Julie Bishop was questioned about the shoes that Ardern wore when she popped in on a dinner that Winston Peters hosted at his home for the visiting Australian Foreign Minister.

“Seriously?” asked Bishop.

Seriously, New Zealand’s media is at severe risk of collapsing into cringe.

We would benefit from an anti-gaga media.

Seven Sharp – celebrity over substance

Seven Sharp was not very sharp starting this year.  I rarely watched it last year or the year before, and didn’t watch it last night, but reactions would suggest it won’t be of much interest to me.

It sounds like it is another step on the road to more media made mush – manufactured ‘celebrity’ over substance.

I generally look for something of more interest online at 7 pm, if I’m not doing something else.

Ten thoughts about the brand new Seven Sharp at The Spinoff highlights the focus, not just of what used to be current affairs programmes, but also of media commentators.

 1. About one of the new presenters, asking if he was ok.

 2. About the same new presenter, asking if he could not lie.

 3. Cake baking. Really, the presenters cake baking.

 4. …the fundamentals are largely the same.

The Hosking/Street Seven Sharp was a pair of hosts with no audience and no guests doing links between magazine-style segments. So far, we’ve seen nothing to suggest that fundamental structure has changed. The opening story covered school lunches, and ended with the hosts dropping the stat that 88% of countries provide them for pupils – something it’s hard to imagine Hosking emphasising. But aside from the brilliant Anika-Celine encounter, the remainder of the segments stuck with the familiar formula, and thus made it feel more re-fresh than reboot.

 5. About the presenters. “As a male/female dynamic to watch at work each night” – is that really what people want to watch? Apparently.

6. More celebrity stuff. Anika Moa interviewed a barely recognisable Celine Dion. Apparently Anika was the star of the show.

7. About a parking ticket at a shopping mall.

8. There was no audience, so all the focus was on the celebrities.

9. Comparing it to one of the first New Zealand celebrity shows (that in comparison had some actual substance).

It’s just Holmes but with fun cakes and not as much racism! Actually, that bit about the “eskimo” lollies wasn’t great.

10. Asks “Will it work?” and then says it all depends on the celebrities.

The review was much like the show by the sound of things, souped up celebrity sacharine sans substance.

People who like watching trivia and talking twats and don’t get diverted with frequent advertising breaks may stick it out, but anyone with a computer or tablet or smart phone is likely to be off in a click or swipe, probably never to come back.

Celebrity Prime Minister

Jacinda Ardern officially became New Zealand’s 40th Prime Minister today at a swearing in ceremony at Government House.


Following that she was treated top celebrity treatment when she arrived at Parliament.

I think we can expect a lot of this sort of crowd interaction and reaction.

Television presenters versus celebrity entertainers

There has been continued moves towards ‘celebrity’ style entertainment in news and current affairs, away from presenters who are detached from the stories.

On Twitter yesterday:

I remember fondly the days when journalists weren’t the story. @JournalistsLike

I responded with “They’re now not just the story, they’re the show.”

The move towards celebrity fronted shows that use news and current affairs for material started with Paul Holmes. Until recently there was a long running John Campbell show, and now 3 News sets the tone for the day with the Paul Henry show.

Currently the One News home page is promoting two personalities associated with their Seven Sharp show, and the news that follows is lightweight at best:


3 News call all their news and current affairs programs ‘shows’.

3NewsShowsAnd personalities are promoted in most of those shows. Television has become 24/7 show time.

And this transformation from serious news presentation to entertainment looks like continuing, according to this item at NZ Herald:

Future uncertain for TV3 hosts

Hilary Barry and Mike McRoberts may no longer be the faces of 3 News when a major revamp takes place later this year.

TV3 Head of News Mark Jennings has revealed to the Herald that a new-look bulletin will launch in November, when the network integrates its television and radio newsrooms into one operation.

Jennings said 3 News will be “the next cab off the rank” following a complete overhaul of the network’s daily news programmes, including the launch of Story this week.

“If you look in the last six months, we’ve launched three new projects. Paul Henry, Newsworthy and now Story. We have put a lot of concentration and commitment into those products. Six o’clock probably hasn’t had quite the same attention.”

He said the revamp will focus predominantly on style and content, rather than presenter line-ups. However, he said he cannot rule out presenter changes as a possibility.

It would be sad if Barry and McRoberts are “revamped” and replaced with “style”. They are two of the best presenters currently on air – they don’t let their personalities dominate the stories. They may survive – but note that John Campbell didn’t survive a revamp.

The future is probably uncertain for all news and current affairs hosts in a ratings driven dumbed down celebrity obsessed television world.

At least we have a range of online options so we can filter out the candyfloss.

UPDATE: From Alan’s comment:

TV is becoming a niche for those too incompetent or passive to search out anything else.

“What did you say your name was again?”

An interesting aspect comes up in an interesting profile at Stuff: The real Heather du Plessis-Allan:

He’s pleased to meet the famous daughter.

“How are you?” he says. “I usually see you on the news… What did you say your name was again?”

While it may seem different to some journalists who see themselves as frequently in the media spotlight – and some in the limelight – most people don’t know the names of most journalists. And almost all bloggers. And most politicians.

I remember from when I stood in the 2011 election in Dunedin North (a great experience) – the local TV station did a (very basic) street survey about the better known candidates (media usually ignores most candidates most of the time). Almost all of the handful of people asked couldn’t name the Labour candidate. He won the election a week or so later.

A common question I hear is “who is that person who does the news?” – and often repeating the question about the same presenter.

Those in media circles and in and around the awfully described ‘celebrity’ segment of our society don’t have the identity recognition that some may perceive from within the bullshit bubble.